How drones are being used in the supply chain

Here are five ways supply chains can harness the power of drones:

Direct to consumer delivery option

Amazon is a pioneer of drone use for delivery direct to consumer.

A BBC report outlines how Amazon obtained a patent for its delivery drones in April 2015.

The drone has the ability to locate a person using smartphone data.

The drone can complete the delivery of a package to the exact location of the person.

In supply chain terms, it means completing the last mile of a product’s journey to the customer.

“A mock-up delivery screen suggests that people will be able to choose from a variety of delivery options—from ‘bring it to me’ to nominating their home, place of work or even ‘my boat’ as places for packages to be dropped,” said BBC.

The drone technology combined with the omni-channel experience will change how goods are delivered to today’s consumers.

2. Drones for tracking inventory
Photo credit: Fraunhofer IML (drone-inventory mangement)

In an Gizmag article, the Fraunhofer Institute reviewed the development of a new flying robotic drone.

The drone takes over the tedious work of stock taking and record keeping.

The aim of the drone is to automate inventory work for efficiencies.

One worker checks inventory or looks for a single item by means of a drone robotic assistant.

The worker doesn’t need to leave their desk or even climb a ladder. The drone can be controlled from the desk.

3. Internal delivery
Moving materials on the warehouse floor is another potential future drone use.

Deploying drones to move boxes could have several benefits such as:

greater flexibility in reconfiguring the ‘from and to’ delivery points
increasing capacity by deploying multiple drones
sorting/loading onto pallets
loading of containers at the outbound dock.

4. Surveillance devices

An article published in Material Handling and Logistics News, introduces the concept of surveillance drones.

It could emerge as a viable and even superior alternative to traditional video cameras.

Drones can access places where stationary cameras can’t.

That potential to reduce theft is significant; drones have the capability to monitor areas where thieves wait to steal precious cargo.

5. Safety for employees
Many jobs in the transfer of goods puts an employee at risk for accidents.

Employers can record higher risk areas where employees can get injured and have a more complete picture of an incident.

Drone surveillance can also aid an employer in reviewing accidents.

They improve safety considerations for the employee and company overall.

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